Another school year is kicking off. And by the time June rolls around, you'll likely be wondering how it went so quickly. Want to capture this moment in time-- before all the leaps and jumps? Make a time capsule! You may just be surprised what you find, when you dig it up at the end of the school year...

Elementary aged kids make a lot of progress in each short academic year. A kindergartener's self-portrait will look nothing like it did just a few months before. A third grader's handwriting my steadily improve. And a fifth grader may go from shy wallflower, to soon-to-be Middle School kid. This hands-on activity lets you capture where they are in September, so you can appreciate all the change, come June.

paper (assorted types and colors)
airtight container or scrapbook box

Tell your child you’re going to create a special time capsule all about him. He can use it to document who he is at this moment in time. In June, you’ll dig it up and take a look at what he was like at this point in time. It’s kind of like a letter to his future self!

Don’t worry, you don’t need to purchase a weatherproof canister for this project. You and your child can use any type of airtight container or even a large box like the ones found at scrapbook stores. You can bury the box in the yard or just put it up on a high shelf to examine at the end of the school year.

Deciding what to put in the time capsule is part of the fun. Brainstorm some ideas together, but let your child take the lead. Time capsule material can range from items to tuck inside as-is (ticket stubs, programs from a play), to things created specifically for inclusion. Feeling stuck? Here are some suggestions:


  • A handwriting sample (have your child write his first name and last name if he's young, or a small story if he's older)
  • Best friend (s) – include a picture if possible or just list their names and include an illustration
  • First day of school (include a photo and have your child write or dictate the words for you to write an account of his feelings on that day)
  • All about me-- a statement from your child about himself, in his own words. What makes him special? What does he want people to know is important to him?
  • Favorite color
  • Favorite television show
  • Favorite outfit (and a picture of your child wearing it)
  • Favorite foods (and a picture of your child eating them!)
  • Favorite book
  • Favorite sport
  • Favorite subject in school
  • Favorite music
  • What I want to be when I grow up
  • What I like about myself-- a list of favorite features, from personality traits like kindness, to specific physical details like eye color
  • A recording of your child reading his favorite book
  • A copy of your child’s handprint and/or footprint (trace it or use paint to make a print on paper)
  • String or yarn used to measure your child’s height. (Once you’ve measured, cut the string to represent his height and place the string in the time capsule.)

What else can you put in there? The list of candidates is endless, so use your imagination and ask your child for suggestions! Use as many real photographs and videos as possible. After selecting the items and placing them inside, you and your child can find a secure spot to “hide” the time capsule, with the understanding that you will open it only after the full school year has passed. Just think of your child’s delight and surprise as he opens that box and catches a glimpse of the person he used to be. He’ll likely be surprised to find out how much he’s changed in the past year, but also, how many things remain the same.